Select Committee on European Union Thirty-Eighth Report


Letter from Mr Bob Ainsworth MP, Parliamentary under Secretary of State, Home Office, to Lord Brabazon, Chairman of the European Union Committee


  This letter is to inform the Committee that the Council has recently agreed a negotiating mandate for EU/US co-operation under Article 24/38 of the Treaty on the European Union.

  The Action Plan adopted at the extraordinary European Council meeting on 21 September 2001 provides for the co-operation of the European Union with the United States in bringing to justice and punishing the perpetrators, sponsors and accomplices of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. At the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 28 February 2002, the Council agreed to proceed with this work and aimed for the adoption of the draft mandate at the Justice and Home Affairs Council of 25 April 2002. The draft mandate has now been agreed by Member States.

  The negotiation is to build on agreements, conventions, treaties, arrangements and any other legal framework on co-operation in criminal matters, with a view to facilitating extradition in connection with terrorism and mutual legal assistance between the competent authorities of EU Member States and the USA.

  The negotiations will focus on improving and facilitating extradition and mutual legal assistance between the EU and the US. Discussions on mutual legal assistance will focus on improvements to co-operation in the area of investigations into financial elements of serious crime, including organised crime, terrorism and financial crime, improvements to practical co-operation and the reduction of delays, videoconferencing and improvement of investigation procedures. Improvements to extradition procedures will be made by reducing delays in handling requests, speciality and re-extradition.

  The Government is keen to ensure that discussions with the US focus on areas where an Article 24/38 Agreement can add value over and above bi-lateral treaties or arrangements. This includes areas where the UK has not experienced difficulties, but where the European Union can add value to resolve problems faced by individual Member States. However, it is important that EU/US agreement does not prevent the continued use of bi-lateral treaties where these are more advantageous than the EU/US agreement.

  Given the mandate sets out the EU's approach to the negotiations with the US it is a confidential document and does not fall within the normal criteria for parliamentary scrutiny. However, the agreement to result from those negotiations will be submitted for parliamentary scrutiny when it is presented to the Council with a proposal to conclude the agreement.

29 May 2002

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